Dec302018

Inspired By The Princess Diarist

I began Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist with hopes of side splitting laughter and joy. I finished the memoir depressed, deflated, and encouraged.

Okay, I admit it. I began this memoir hoping for an uplift in mood. A cure for my anhedonia and the mental lethargy I had been feeling for days. Instead I slogged through page after page of purple prose and vain attempts to be witty. But strangely when I finished the memoir I had a glimmer of hope.

The Princess Diarist was published a month before Carrie Fishers’ death December 27, 2016. Fisher said the memoir was inspired by journals she found while cleaning out a closet. Anyone who has seen the documentary Bright Lights and the chaos that was Fisher’s home would understand how she could misplace the journals for forty years. The journals primarily document her affair with Harrison Ford while they were filming the first episode of Star Wars. The memoir goes further with an semi-affectionate rant about the autograph sessions at Comic Con and the like. Fisher calls them lap dances.

Ford was fourteen years older than a somewhat naive, but vaguely sexually experienced, nineteen year old Fisher. Fisher said that she finally chose to make the affair public because she did not want someone else exposing lies about what really happened. The way I read the memoir Fisher struggled with “does he love me” syndrome. And, it seems she was smitten with him if not in love with him. While he was not in love with her. Fisher does not reveal any salacious details of their relationship but does describe that all consuming first kiss initiated by Ford.

About half the memoir consists of reproductions of the original journal entries. A few poems are interspersed with these journal entries. The entries show the beginning promise of the writer Fisher would become. And, show shadows of the dendritic bipolar mind that possessed and at time dominated Fisher’s life. The entries are often difficult to read (at least for me). They are filled with a bottomless self doubt. And, a non stop self flagellation with words, words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.

Yet they inspire hope in me.

If Fisher can do it. So can I.

Pour out my doubt. Expose my inadequacies. Catalogue my fears. Celebrate what few triumphs there are. Coloured gray-black by the demon of depression.

I shall take as my mantra for 2019, Fisher’s exhortation, “Write, don’t think, write.”

Jan202018

On Being Bi-Polar

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It is 4 in the morning. I am listening to the rain piss down on the stone tiles outside my room. The balcony door is open a foot and the 27 degree Celsius, muggy tropic air wafts in.

I have been awake since 2 a.m. And, IT is happening again.

IT being the return of hypomania. Hypo is a word prefix meaning under. So, literally under manic or less than manic. Manic being the word for certifiably crazy, wacko, outta control. At least in the eyes of people who are not manic, not bipolar.

By the way, an aside, I just loathe The Bangles song, Manic Monday. It is so, so wrong. The song describes a hectic, frantic, chaotic day. Not like mania at all. Not. Well, maybe a little bit. But just one aspect of the whole magilla.

To be official. I have Bipolar Affective Disorder II. Let’s parse that. Let’s look at the Affective bit. According to Google’s dictionary, affective means relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes. Let’s get more specific, denoting or relating to mental disorders in which a disturbance of mood is the primary symptom. What is mood?

Most of us know what our mood is. But, what’s the official definition of mood? Mood is defined as a temporary state of mind or feeling. Synonyms are state of mind, frame of mind, temper, or humour. The latter two being rather old words.

So, let’s sum up. Bipolar disorder is seemingly about mood. And, in my 34 years of experiencing it that is true. But, as I will tell you later, it is much more than that. So, much more.

Let’s look at the Bipolar piece of the phrase. Bipolar literally means 2 poles. Two opposite poles, like North Pole and South Pole. But in this case the 2 poles are Mania and Depression. Mania is defined as mental illness marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions, and overactivity. Some synonyms for mania are madness, insanity, lunacy, delirium, frenzy, wildness. Let’s look at the downward pole. Depression is defined as feelings of despondency and dejection. Some synomyms for depression are melancholy, sorrow, despair, hopelessness.

First a bit of a discursion. When I was first diagnosed with a mood disorder my official diagnosis was Manic Depressive Illness. That name reflected the illness was clearly about both Mania and Depression. That was in 1983. Since then psychiatrists and psychologists have recognized that there are several versions or forms of mood disorders. According to the Mayo Clinic there are no less than 9 mood disorders. But, let’s look at ones pertinent to this discussion. These are Bipolar Affective Disorder I and Bipolar Affective Disorder II.

The chief characteristic that distinguishes Bipolar II from Bipolar I is that the mood swing in the upward direction, towards mania, is less than that of Bipolar I. Hence, hypomania.Individuals experiencing hypomania may experience different degrees of mania and its affiliated symptoms.

Next post, I take an unvarnished look at just what those symptoms are.

Excerpt from CRASH! Memories of a Healing Journey, Lyle T. Lachmuth, Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved